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Augmented Reality Menorah Transports Chanukah Into a New Dimension

Augmented Reality Menorah Transports Chanukah Into a New Dimension

Tech Tribe, a group for young Jewish professionals, mixes digital with just about everything

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Israeli native Nitzan Bartov has been working on something new this Chanukah: an augmented reality menorah, to be debuted this week at a Tech Tribe event in New York.
Israeli native Nitzan Bartov has been working on something new this Chanukah: an augmented reality menorah, to be debuted this week at a Tech Tribe event in New York.

Digital artist Nitzan Bartov will demonstrate this Chanukah that augmented reality goes far beyond Pokémon GO, the location-based augmented reality game downloaded 750 million times that took smartphone users by storm in the summer of 2016.

She explains that she has created an app through which people can look at a menorah and enter a “Chanukah-related solar system.”

The 31-year-old Israeli, who now lives in New York City, sees a natural connection between a holiday that celebrates a miracle, and the “magic and surprise of discovering” animations through a phone or tablet.

Augmented reality, often abbreviated as “A.R.,” uses cameras to create an interactive digital overlay in real-time over the “real world” displayed on a smartphone or tablet screen. The augmented reality menorah will include sufganiyot (doughnuts), chocolate gelt, dreidels and a jar of oil.

This very different kind of menorah is the latest effort from Tech Tribe, a Chabad-affiliated organization dedicated to enhancing and creating Jewish experiences for those working in tech and digital media.

To illuminate the story of Chanukah and other concepts, “we try and take whatever is currently trending in the tech world,” says Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, co-director of Tech Tribe with his wife, Chana. Lightstone also serves as social-media director for Chabad.org.

Chanukah, which starts on the night of Dec. 12 and lasts through Dec. 20, celebrates when the Jews in the second century were under siege from a Syrian-Greek army and found a hidden cruse containing enough oil—the rest had been defiled—to light a menorah one night. But miraculously, the oil lasted for eight nights, and the Jews were able to defeat the army and reclaim the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Concept design for the “AR” (augmented reality) menorah
Concept design for the “AR” (augmented reality) menorah

‘The Capacity for Light and Goodness’

Bartov studied architecture in Tel Aviv before moving into the fields of game design and digital art. She met Lightstone through a New York friend who asked if she wanted to join a digital adventure; she was interested. So she met with the rabbi, and they came up with the idea for a “digital miracle” using a physical menorah as the centerpiece, with a digital layer created on top of it.

“We wanted to show that hidden within plain sight is the potential for a lot of light and a lot of revelation,” says Lightstone. “It shows people that in our own souls, we have something to unlock—the capacity for light and goodness.”

The Tech Tribe directors will use the app at a party on the third night of Chanukah, Dec. 14, at The Yard, a co-working space above Herald Square in Manhattan. They will light the candles the traditional way, but then also have a tablet near the lampstand through which people will be able to see a “parallel dimension.”

Bartov says “the aesthetic is going to be digital futuristic.”

“We wanted to show that hidden within plain sight is the potential for a lot of light and a lot of revelation,” says Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, shown leading a prior Chanukah event.
“We wanted to show that hidden within plain sight is the potential for a lot of light and a lot of revelation,” says Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, shown leading a prior Chanukah event.

The party will also feature (real) potato latkes and jelly doughnuts, beer from Shmaltz Brewing Company, Chanukah songs, and, of course, the recitation of prayers when lighting the menorah. Lightstone expects as many 50 people to attend. He hopes that if the app is successful, others will be able to use the technology. In previous years, he featured a 3D-printed menorah and Animated GIF menorah. Since he first used the 3D-printed menorah, he has shared the files needed to create them with other Chabad rabbis.

Is it a problem that digital technology could distract from the traditional menorah or make it seem ordinary?

Bartov says they were careful not to. “While we were brainstorming for the right concept,” says Bartov, “we were trying to come up with something that would connect to the holiday and its meaning and would not dilute the menorah as the centerpiece of the celebration and ritual.”

Lightstone is “very open,” she says, “but he is also good at telling you what he wants and what is important and what goes too far from the message we are trying to give.”

Click here for more information or to RSVP.

The augmented reality menorah is the latest effort by Tech Tribe to enhance and create Jewish experiences for those working in tech and digital media.
The augmented reality menorah is the latest effort by Tech Tribe to enhance and create Jewish experiences for those working in tech and digital media.


Related Article:

GIF Menorah Highlights New York Tech Tribe Event

The GIF menorah uses a technique known as “digital mapping” to project short looping videos onto its front. (Photo: Tzvi Filler)
The GIF menorah uses a technique known as “digital mapping” to project short looping videos onto its front. (Photo: Tzvi Filler)

Chanukah celebration a chance to network and talk digital


Related Article:

Chanukah Turns Tech at Events in New York and Chicago

A Tech Tribe Chanukah event at Brooklyn’s Makeshift Society focused on 3D printing and the Jewish experience. A design contest wound up with a dozen entrants, including a 3D menorah and the winning product—a 3D illuminated dreidel.
A Tech Tribe Chanukah event at Brooklyn’s Makeshift Society focused on 3D printing and the Jewish experience. A design contest wound up with a dozen entrants, including a 3D menorah and the winning product—a 3D illuminated dreidel.

Introducing a 3D-printed menorah, fostering interest in tech-savvy ideas with Jewish themes



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Anonymous Midbar Yehuda December 16, 2017

Will it be possible for Chabad.org to post pictures or video of the events featuring these unique "devices."
There is a RSVP clic on. Is that only for New Yorkers? Reply

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